This entire episode provoked me into a deep philosophical question of authenticity of authorship and ownership of an artwork. History of art is filled with stories where the artists and their families died in poverty while their work, later on, made many others billionaires.
If one would Google, one will find millions of photographs of the same artwork with million others’ copyright watermark on it. Cropped differently (composition) with altered colour schemes and digitally enhancements; most of them render the original work into oblivion. Before one jumps into an ethical or moral judgment about the entire affair, one may have to consider some serious philosophical artistic issues involved with image making in this entire affair. Allow me to explain in detail.
What is original in art - Labour/craft or concept?
This is a complicated question. In Western art, from the days of guild during Renaissance to today’s postmodern artists, a large section of artists would not be able to claim authorship of the craft of labour. Most of them are made to order or are supervised. So, one may have to safely discount that claim from the originality of art. Then comes the conceptual authorship. Usually in an artwork, there are three ways an artist executes an artwork – translation, transformation and transgression. Considering these three areas are largely dealt by curatorial conceptualization in postmodern art, it leaves very little room for the authenticity of authorship of the artwork.